SunsetIf you have never lived or worked on a horse farm, I would strongly suggest trying out that lifestyle before committing yourself to farm ownership. The benefits of having your horse at home and being able to care for it exactly how you want is a strong impetus for purchasing a farm. It can be less costly than boarding, but that really depends on how you set up your farm. If you keep things simple, you can save money. If you need all the bells and whistles such as indoor arenas, it may be less expensive in the long run to board.

I love living on a farm, but it isn't for the faint of heart. You cannot easily take a vacation if you don't have access to reliable and knowledgeable help. You have a responsibility that never takes a break, no matter what the weather or your health status. You have to enjoy or at least not hate physical labor. Not only cleaning stalls, but storing and feeding hay, managing manure, putting up fencing and mowing fields are just a few aspects of farm management.

Nothing beats looking out your windows to see your horses grazing. Of course, you also see the fences that need to be repaired, or the grass that needs to be cut, or the jumps in need of a fresh coat of paint. I've learned to repeat the mantra "it's a farm, it's a farm", which means it will always be a work in progress. Then I go back to looking at my horses grazing and find something more fun to do.

One of the best resources that I've found is this online forum chronofhorse. Since horse people can be passionate with their opinions, sometimes it is best to lurk before posting to get a feel of what topics are safe to post! There is a world of information available on the Around the Farm discussion forum, with many knowledgeable posters sharing their experience. 

Farm Layout

 rsz front of barn 2 Farm layout will largely be dictated by the shape of your property. If your property is long and narrow, you may have less options on where to put your barn and pastures than a property shaped more like a square. Smaller properties especially need to be thoughtfully designed since there is less overall room for pastures, rings and buildings. If you are able to live on the property for a while before bringing the horses home, it gives you time to know how the prevailing winds blow, how the property naturally drains and all the little nuances that will be important in your decision making process later on.

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Stall Setup

rsz stall front long viewOne of my main concerns when I built the barn was ease and efficiency. Since I am the only horse person in my family, I wanted it to be safe for anyone to feed or take care of the horses in case of my illness or absence. I went with a center aisle barn with grillwork on the stalls and feed doors so grain can be fed without entering the stall.

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Paddocks And Pasture Chutes

rsz paddocks and chutes smallI wanted to be able to turn the horses out and bring them in conveniently and safely. To do this, each stall has an individual paddock attached to it. Each paddock has a gate that leads to a private pasture. Turning the horses out only entails opening the gate. When I bring the horses in, I just shut the gate and that gives the pasture time to rest. Even in bad weather conditions, the horses still have their paddocks to move about. I would suggest having at least 5 foot high fencing in the paddock areas. If it is possible, 6 foot high (or higher) fencing will keep the horses from fighting or playing too much over the fenceline. Even if you have quiet horses now, that doesn't mean sometime in the future you may not have youngsters or boarders horses that are more active and harder on the fencing.

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rsz clue under overhangI used to leave the stalls open for the horses to come and go as they please, but it ended up that they would walk in from the pastures to urinate and drop manure in their stalls and then walk back out. This added to more work for me and expense in shavings, so I added overhangs to the barn instead. It was one of the best decisions I've made!

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Hay Storage And Feeding

rsz hay storageAnother item to consider when planning your farm is hay storage. Opinions differ on whether hay should be stored in the main barn or a separate building. Storing hay in the main barn makes feeding more convenient, but may not be covered by insurance companies due to the increased fire hazard.

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fencingFencing is one of the larger expenditures on a horse farm and probably one of the most labor intensive. Horses love to test their boundaries, and fencing is no exeption!

The type of fencing you choose will depend on availability to your area as well as pricing. If you can install it yourself, you can save a significant amount of money. It can also cost you in terms of backaches and frustration. I do believe the mark of a true friendship is how many of your friends will help put up fencing once they know what the job entails! Luckily, if you do it correctly, it is something that doesn't need to be done very often.

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rsz compost close upThe average horse produces 50 pounds of manure daily. That adds up to a lot of manure very rapidly, especially if you don't have a lot of acreage and must pick up most of it. In suburban areas, the worry of environmental implications from the runoff of livestock operations has caused some states to require manure management plans for small farms.

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Mud Management

rsz mud n bootsMUD...UGHH

If you live on a horse farm in a non arid climate, you will be dealing with mud at some point. It's inevitable. And frustrating. To tackle mud, you need to first know your enemy.

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Time Saving Tips

rsz color coding1. Color code your barn. Having a small barn allows me to color code each horse's items. Each horse has a color associated with him. His feed buckets, blankets, hay nets and stall door all have that horses color. I buy inexpensive beads at craft stores and use zip ties to attach the beads to the horse blankets, stall doors and hay nets. I purchase feed buckets in colors to correlate with that particular horse. This also makes it easier for anyone in the barn to know which item belongs to which horse. A simple glance to the horses stall door double checks which horse has which color. I also have name plates over each stall to further avoid confusion.

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Favorite Items For The Barn

1. Hotpot. If you don't have hot water in your barn, a hotpot is a lifesaver. It is great for boiling or warming water for use in bran mashes, cleaning tack, adding warm water to buckets, and having warm water available for veterinary procedures and/or wound cleaning. It is also great for defrosting the oil I add to my horses feed in the winter.  I use my hotpot daily and it is one item that I couldn't be without. Never leave a plugged in hotpot unattended!

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